After four years, the superintendent who led Regional School Unit 2 through a transition to proficiency-based grading is leaving for a job at an organization promoting college and career readiness across the country.

Virgel Hammonds announced Friday that he will leave the district serving students in Monmouth, Richmond, Farmingdale, Hallowell and Dresden at the end of June to become chief education officer at the Ohio-based KnowledgeWorks Foundation. There, he’ll work with policymakers and school districts to transition to proficiency-based systems.

Hammonds, 37, of West Gardiner, was a principal in a California school district that was expanding such a system before coming to the district in 2011, just after RSU 2’s board adopted a similar plan for the system. The model replaces letter grades with a host of standards in each subject area representing skills and concepts. On each standard, students typically get a 1-4 grade, with a 3 indicating proficiency.

Since coming to Maine, Hammonds has been one of the faces of the model, which state law says must be implemented statewide by 2017. While he said he was “professionally and personally happy” in the district, he called his new job an opportunity that would be “really hard to pass up.”

“The only reason I have this opportunity is because of the great work of educators, our students and our community,” Hammonds said.

Jim Grandahl, an RSU 2 board member from Monmouth, said Hammonds came aboard “at a very challenging time” for the district, but he was the right person for the job.

“What we were lacking was the captain who had real sea experience going through that transition,” Grandahl said, “and there was nobody in Maine who had gone through it.”

But that wasn’t the only challenge. With many in Monmouth concerned about a loss of local control and the new grading model, the town kicked off a two-year process of withdrawing from RSU 2 that failed in 2013 with the pro-withdrawal side winning a majority, but falling short of the 22 votes needed to certify the vote.

Since then, Grandahl credited Hammonds with forging positive relationships districtwide. When he assumed the job, he met with residents in town halls and homes to talk about the district’s vision. Grandahl said Hammonds “was at every sporting event, he was at every band concert and academic decathlon and town meeting” and won many over with his accessibility.

“He’s such a likeable person,” said C. Douglas Ludewig, the chairman of selectmen in Monmouth who supported withdrawal. “He’s going to be hard to replace.”

Dawn Gallagher of Hallowell, chairwoman of RSU 2’s board, said the job could be posted by next week, and the board hopes to hire a new superintendent before the next school year begins. In the interim, she said the district will be likely led by an internal employee yet to be named.

However, Hammonds said his new job will allow him to live in the area and that he has “no immediate plans” to move, so he’ll be around to support the search process and help the interim leader and the next superintendent transition into the job. He said the district is “functioning at a pretty great level” and called it “a blessing working here.”

“I really look forward to seeing what the educators, kids and parents build together as the years progress,” he said.

Michael Shepherd — 370-7652

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Twitter: @mikeshepherdme